Friday 29 May 2015

Where did that go?

There is something very odd about experiencing 24 hour daylight. The days never end and roll into one another with barely a notice period. It may be something to do with that which explains why time goes so fast and it is hard to believe that we are just about to embark on our last day of the week already.

The one thing for sure is that when the fishing is like this, it is sensible to make the most of it and our team at Lower have been doing just that. Some get up early in the morning, some fish after guided hours and some fish after supper with the result being that there is barely a minute when someone is not fishing. All of which led to a further 110 fish being landed yesterday to the 10 rods. Stuart L emerged as the top rod with 22 to his rod for the day but was closely followed by Craig C and Marc W.

Douglas B on Heli
 Marc "retired" his own tied fly last night, the Finn’s Gold, once it had landed 40 fish – not bad for one fly. Whilst the young guns put in the hours, it has been Douglas B who has caught the selector’s eye and at the age of 80, he decided not to come into dinner last night as he wanted to carry on fishing. A final tally of 17 was deemed sufficient before he came in.

Craig C with one of 20 he landed yesterday
Middle Varzuga is beginning to show signs of normal service being resumed and they finished with 103 to their 12 rods. Peter W accounted for 17 of those whilst John R and Jim F had 11 and 10 fish respectively. Terry reports fish all the way from Party to Korevi Pots and that they saw plenty more fish.

Glenn, our fixer of everything, in the sun this morning
Kitza surprised us a bit. We would normally expect catches to go on an upward curve from day one but they landed 19 fish to the 9 rods which was a bit lighter than we would have hoped. Much like Middle, their numbers will climb steadily. A later than usual response to the radio call by Ollie this morning betrayed the rather obvious fact that it was Craig P’s birthday yesterday and it seemed likely that one of Kitza’s legendary kitchen party’s had been much enjoyed.

Stuart L, soaked but happy
Proving that the weather can do what it likes this far north, it is a stunning day today with not a cloud in the sky. Graham , Paul, Stuart and Douglas were out this morning and have all landed fish before coming in for breakfast so we hope for more of the same. It is an early start tomorrow morning so the next blog will be on Sunday when I will try and round up what we have finished with for this week – it is going to take some tallying.

Charlie White

Thursday 28 May 2015

Personal bests

There have been times in the past when I have got very frustrated with the camp manager at Middle Varzuga. Every morning and evening, at an agreed time, we radio each other to ensure that everything is going well and to find out about the days fishing. Not unnaturally, one of the key points is to find out how many fish have been caught that day. Very often the manager at Middle will tell me he doesn’t know, is not sure or that he hasn’t spoken to everyone which can be quite frustrating. I now take it all back.

Paul P with one of 10 he landed yesterday
The team here are fishing every hour that they can and keeping track of where everyone is and what they have caught is almost impossible. However, after finally rounding them all up we deduced that the 10 rods had landed 124 fish in the day. Personal bests were being broken on what felt like an hourly basis but in the end Graham J was the top rod with 21, Craig C landed 20, Marc W had 19 and various others reached double figures for the first time.

Graham J - top rod with 21 fish for his day
We landed fish up and down the river but our bottom beats are still the most productive. We are now fishing with intermediate tips, half inch tubes and at times, size 6 flies. Next week will probably see us switching entirely to floating lines and fly sizes will decrease but as ever, we are in the far north and making any firm predictions about what next week will hold is not always the best policy.

John M on Moskoi Island
Kitza had another 22 fish for their day with Craig P landing a beautiful fish of around 15lbs from Sashas. They decided to explore the upper river a bit more yesterday which was a great success. They knew that there were probably more fish below the camp but were prepared to forego the extra numbers to fish in such a stunning place.

Middle Varzuga finished with 69 in the book which is without doubt a great days fishing but was a bit slower than we might expect given what we landed here. Theories abound as you can imagine and it is simply a matter of time before the main run hits that camp but in the meantime there is a certain swagger to the guides at Lower knowing that they are outfishing what is normally the most productive camp.
Stuart L on Jannaways
This morning has seen a complete change in the weather and it is currently pouring with rain. The least bothered about that is probably our 80 year old veteran, Douglas B, who found that he was awake at 5am. Deciding that he just as well fish as stare at the ceiling he landed 5 fish before breakfast and has given us all the lead for the day.

Charlie White

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Pana and Kitza

Yesterday was a busy day in the helicopter. We first took Toby and Beanie up to Pana and as ever, it was great to catch up with the team of guides and camp staff who have been there for so long.

The river looks perfect up there with Hippo Rock just showing, they had got five boats ready to go, the cabins are up and running and now we just need to add rods.

Pana from the air
Following that we took the team who had been fishing here at Lower over to Kitza and swapped over with the 10 rods who have been fishing over there. We try to do the changeover quite quickly as otherwise it can feel as if everyone is hanging around a bit but there is inevitably some delay as tactics are swapped, beats discussed and advice freely given.

Alicia, Arlena, Toby, Natasha and Beanie at Pana
There was much advice to go around as the 9 rods at Lower put a further 63 fish in the book yesterday with Stephen T having his best day of 13 from Sviats and Moskoi.

At Middle Varzuga they seemed to suffer from a mid week lull and the scores during the guided hours were not that spectacular but the home pools of Generator and Bear saved the day and the 12 rods finished with 62 recorded. Jim F, having not been out here for 7 years, remembered what he was doing and finished with 14 for his day.

Eric W with one of 28 fish he landed in 3 days at Lower
Kitza had a slightly slower day and they finished with 22 and a lot of those fish came from Reel and Spey. As soon as we had landed at Lower the team had their rods up and were fishing the home pools. It was clear that dinner was going to be delayed so we had a staggered evening as everyone came in when either tired or sated.

Marc W made the best of it and landed 10 fish from Wires whilst also losing a further 9 more. His shell shocked expression when he came back in is the kind of reaction we are all hoping to see.

Kitza last night, still quite high
This morning is bright but there is a tough upstream wind. Not that that mattered to Craig C who went out before breakfast and took 2 fish from Heli. Everyone was bang on time for breakfast and the enthusiasm levels are as high as I have seen – let’s hope for more of the same today.

Charlie White

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Up to Middle

After an extremely successful day’s fishing at Lower, I went up to Middle Varzuga to visit the team there for dinner. It takes about 45-50 minutes to get there by boat and whilst wrapped up as best I could, I was pretty cold by the time we got there and was grateful that Terry and Donna had got the fire blazing and the drinks ready.

Hayward F with one of 17 he landed yesterday
They had had a very good day and finished with 93 fish for their total. In amongst the fresh fish they landed, they had also lost roughly the same again, landed twice as many kelts, accounted for 4 decent sized pike and an endless succession of biggish grayling – it was clear that they had been very busy all day. A delicious dinner ensued which certainly kept me much warmer on the way back.

Getting back at just after midnight normally means that you return to a quiet camp but last night there were a few who were keen to celebrate their day and they were right to do so.

Snakes at Peartiha pool at Middle
103 fresh fish to 9 rods is a superb day of sport and it seemed a shame not to mark it with a few vodkas. Hayward F had comfortably the most productive day of his fishing life and accounted for 17 fish whilst Craig P put 20 more in the book.

At Kitza the team landed 32 for their day and again, the catches were spread very evenly although Jo A was the top rod with 7 fish landed from Reel and Camp pools. We will fly over there tonight for the weekly changeover and I will try and take some pictures of the water height for those of you coming later in the season.

Craig P with the perfect springer at Moskoi
Today we will take Toby and Beanie to Pana with the Russian team and set up that camp which will welcome its first guests on Saturday. Having spent time at Lower learning the ropes, Toby is raring to go and to have charge of his own camp.  Beanie was here last year which is always a massive help as it can be daunting being dropped in the middle of the tundra and being told to get on with it.  Having seen it all before makes it much easier.

Toby and Beanie - looking forward to welcoming their first guests of the season
It is a beautiful day for flying with a blazing sun and very little wind. The bright sun does not seem to affect the fishing as you might expect as there is always a peaty tint to the water. This has been proved by Craig P already landing another fish before breakfast so we seem set for another good day.

Charlie White

P.S. A very happy birthday to Braydyn Whalen from his Dad, Marc

Monday 25 May 2015

Have faith

It doesn’t matter how cool you try to be or how many times you look at the statistics of the river over the years, there is always an underlying doubt as to what you will find year on year. Will the fish run, will they be there in the numbers you hope and more to the point, will they play ball?

The answer is that we should show more faith in the river. Yes, one year will be different from another and catches may vary but the remarkable thing about this river is its underlying consistency.

Ken B on Moskoi Island
Yesterday was a case in point. We started with the brightest of bright sunshine, then had some really cold showers combined with a pretty unpleasant upstream wind, none of which seemed to make much difference.

Here at Lower our nine rods (John, you are much missed) put 95 fish in the book. A very good day by any measure but we lost twice as many more and the action was fast and furious. Michael E demonstrated his knowledge of the beat by landing 20 to his rod and Mark E made the most of an afternoons session on Moskoi to finish with 16 for his day.

Craig P on Bear Island
At Middle Varzuga, the 12 rods accounted for 76 more, with fish being landed from Birthday pool all the way up to Korevi Pots. Given that Lower’s most productive pool has been at the bottom of the beat it would indicate that the main run of fish is only just starting and it seems likely that the catches at Middle have just begun the upward curve that we are so used to seeing.

Michael E with one of 9 he took from Larder
Kitza has started really well and they accounted for 32 fish with Graham J the top rod having landed 8 fish from Spey Pool. Ollie reported a very happy camp with fish landed below and above Clay View.

Sue C on Bear Corner - one of the 11 she landed yesterday
Today is grey and cold but that did not deter Sue C who went out this morning and landed 6 fish from Heli pool in an hour and a half. Craig P joined her and took 3 fish on his spilt cane rod – not a bad way to start the day.

Charlie White

Sunday 24 May 2015

Old friends

As ever, it is great to be back on the Varzuga. We are only here for a short period of the year but we have been doing it a long time and firm friendships have been made.

After too long counting down the days, it is always a real pleasure to walk into the Helsinki Hilton and see so many familiar and friendly faces at the bar. Aware that it is a very early start in the morning, we do all try to make a token effort to be sensible but it never seems to work out that way.

Ken L with a chunky fish landed on Friday
Flying into camp is another moment to catch up with all of the guides and staff who we know so well. The Russians have a reputation for being dour but no one who steps off the helicopter, to be greeted by bear hugs and huge smiles, could ever go along with that.

We landed in brilliant sunshine and it was not long before the first rods were out on the river. Whilst Saturday is really only a bonus day, there are always the home pools to fish and most, if not all, want to take advantage of that.

Midnight last night
 At Lower Varzuga we landed 21 fish before dinner which was a fantastic start. Everyone is normally pretty tired on the first night as it is a long day of travel but the energising effect of a river full of salmon certainly worked its magic and it was not the earliest night we have ever had.

Up at Middle, the extremely experienced team were pretty much in their waders before I had taken off in the helicopter to come back to Lower. They too had over 20 by the time they came in for supper and knowing the rods who fish this week, I suspect they would have had some more after that and some before breakfast this morning.

Rods raring to go this morning
Kitza opens this week and it looks great. It is still quite high but is dropping in really nicely. The rods landed 4 fish in and around camp last night and Ollie reported more being landed early this morning. The new showers and refurbishment of the camp has made it look much smarter but it retains all of its charm.
Craig P with his own design hat. Russian writing to spell Varzuga
We start this morning in bright sunshine and having already landed quite a few fish before breakfast; everyone has gone out with a real sense of hope and excitement.

Charlie White